- Although the flesh of the almaco jack is considered quality table fare, the species has been associated with ciguatera poisoning, a seldom fatal stomach irritation.
- The almaco jack is susceptible to tapeworm parasites in the caudal peduncle area, but the meat can be eaten safely if affected portions are cut away.
Red grouper (Epinephelus)
A member of the sea bass family, the coloration of red grouper varies with the conditions of their environment. Most often they are a dark red-brown color with a pinkish tinge below. Like Nassau grouper, they may have blotches irregularly scattered on the sides. The soft dorsal, anal and caudal fins have a blackish or bluish tinge. The eyes are surrounded by small black spots. The lining of the mouth is noticeable because of its bright scarlet to orange color.
The angular first dorsal fin is connected to the rounded second dorsal fin. The second dorsal spine is longer than the other dorsal spines, while pelvic fins are shorter than the pectoral fins. The gill covers have three flat spines, and the edge of the fan-shaped caudal fin is straight.
The preferred feeding style of the red grouper is to ambush prey that wanders past their hiding place. They will leave their territory to seek food only when necessary. Once they see their prey, they strike, eat the food whole and return quickly to their hiding place.
Additionally, they are not particularly selective in their diet. Although they prefer squid, crab, shrimp, lobster and octopus, they will eat almost anything that presents itself, including dead fish that sink into their habitat.
Red grouper are found in the subtropical waters of the western Atlantic Ocean, primarily between 40 degrees north and 35 degrees south latitude. This area runs generally from North Carolina to Brazil and includes the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea and Bermuda. However, red grouper are seen in fewer numbers in the Caribbean and around Florida and the Bahamas due to extensive fishing. Red grouper are most common in the Gulf of Mexico.
As a bottom-dwelling species, red grouper are usually found near some sort of underwater structure such as a reef or shipwreck. Usually they are found in areas with rocky or muddy surfaces, especially around ridges, ravines and caves. They may also congregate around the edges of seagrass beds and deep backwater holes. An exception to these structures is coral reefs, which are not favored by red grouper.
Red grouper are somewhat adaptable to different water temperatures, but they seem to prefer temperatures between 66 and 77 degrees F. Adult grouper will seek water offshore and go to areas as deep as 400 feet, while juvenile grouper will congregate in shallower water closer to shore until they reach adulthood. For the most part, red grouper do not gather in large schools, especially as they age. Instead, they are a solitary species that hides in cover and structural elements in their environment.
- Spear fishing and increased sport fishing in the Caribbean Sea and off both Florida coasts have greatly reduced the numbers of red grouper in those areas.
- The firm white meat of the red grouper is considered good quality. This makes the red grouper an important commercial species and significant amounts of the fish are marketed both fresh and frozen to consumers. Caution is required, however, because they are susceptible to various toxins that can affect human consumers.